The United Nations health agency is helping the government of the Republic of Congo tackle an acute outbreak of poliomyelitis which has killed 58 people and caused 120 cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP).
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) says that with Congo having recorded its last case of indigenous polio in 2000, the outbreak is believed to be due to imported poliovirus. Investigations are ongoing to determine definitively the origins of the virus.
Half the cases have been reported in the past ten days, with the first case occurring in early October. Two cases have been confirmed to have been caused by wild poliovirus type 1 and laboratory testing continues.
The Government of Congo has alerted the public to the outbreak and launched an emergency response plan, with support from key partners such as WHO and the UN Children`s Fund. At least three nationwide vaccination campaigns are expected, targeting the entire population.
With new cases being reported every day, WHO says it is expected that a multi-country campaign will be required to cover bordering at-risk areas. The agency also says that it is important that countries across central Africa and the Horn of Africa strengthen AFP surveillance, in order to rapidly detect any poliovirus importations and facilitate a rapid response.
WHO adds that given the recent progress achieved in Nigeria " with a 98 per cent reduction in cases this year compared to the same period in 2009 " very high priority is being given to rapidly controlling persistent transmission such as in Angola and stopping new outbreaks such as Congo.